An industrial city that runs only on clean energy? It could be Pittsburgh

The Sierra Club hopes the city is “Ready for 100.”

A view from Fineview as the sun sets over Pittsburgh.

A view from Fineview as the sun sets over Pittsburgh.

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline
Sarah Anne Hughes

Could Pittsburgh become the first industrial city in the U.S. to run on 100 percent clean and renewable energy?

That’s Eva Resnick-Day’s vision. She’s a Sierra Club Pennsylvania organizer working locally on Ready for 100, a national campaign that asks cities to switch to 100 percent clean energy sources by 2035 at the latest. Already, 27 cities have committed to that vision.

“Right now, our federal and state governments aren’t acting on climate change,” Resnick-Day told The Incline. “We won’t be making much progress on that in the next four years.” But, she added, cities are able to “fight for a clean energy future” with cleaner air, lower asthma rates and smaller electricity bills in a way that serves and listens to vulnerable communities.

Resnick-Day is kicking off Pittsburgh’s campaign at 6 tonight at The Glitter Box Theater (460 Melwood Ave.) with a volunteer info session. (Bonus: There will be food and beer.) She said there will be opportunities both big and small, from writing letters to the editor to lobbying businesses to sign on to a Ready for 100 letter.

Despite lingering notions that Pittsburgh is a smoggy steel and coal town, Resnick-Day said the city “is a leader in clean energy already.”

Pittsburgh purchases 30 percent of its municipal energy from renewable sources, Mayor Bill Peduto wrote in an October 2016 op-ed. Peduto has also signed on to the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda. The city’s resilience strategy, released in March, also calls for Pittsburgh to switch to renewable energy sources through a number of steps including upgrading the grid and turning trash into energy.

The public-private 2030 District campaign encompasses 78.7 million square feet of real estate in Downtown, the North Side, Uptown and Oakland, Next Pittsburgh reported, with a goal to cut “energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions” by 50 percent.

As an organizer, Resnick-Day said it’s part of her role to “make sure all the right voices from the community are at the table.” That includes private entities like UPMC, PNC and all the universities. Ready for 100 calls on all of these leaders to come together to “share in one vision,” she said, which has meant different things in different cities that have signed on to the campaign.

“Our mayor and our city government have really taken a stand toward clean and renewable energy,” she said. “By building a really large public campaign that really believes in this vision of 100 percent clean, renewable energy, we’ll be able to be the first industrial city in the country to make the commitment.

“I think nationally if people see Pittsburgh being one of the first cities powered by 100 percent clean, renewable energy, they’ll think, ‘Why can’t anyone do it?'”